19 July 1958 |
|Occupation||Author and language activist|
|Education||Ysgol Gynradd Bontnewydd,
Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle,
|Genre||Children's literature, adult fiction & non-fiction|
Angharad Tomos (born 19 July 1958) is a Welsh author and prominent language activist.
Tomos was born in Bangor, Gwynedd, in 1958, and raised with her five sisters in Llanwnda near Caernarfon. She attended Ysgol Gynradd Bontnewydd and Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle. She began her higher education at Aberystwyth University, but left prior to completing her studies to go and work for Cymdeithas yr Iaith. She later graduated in Welsh and Sociology from Bangor University and went on to receive an MA.
A relentless language activist and prominent author, Tomos has made a substantial contribution to Welsh-language children's literature. She won the crown at Eisteddfod yr Urdd with Hen Fyd Hurt in 1982. Hen Fyd Hurt can be translated as ‘Silly Old World’ and it contains Tomos’s reflections on her experience as an unemployed person. The protagonist named Heulwen does not have a job and enrolls in drawing lessons, a direct reference to Tomos’s own life. Tomos was also chairwoman of Cymdeithas yr Iaith from 1982 to 1984, during the launch of the campaigns for a Welsh Language Act and a body to develop Welsh medium education.
Tomos has written and illustrated many children's books including her popular Rwdlan (to prattle) series, set in Gwlad y Rwla. It is a thirteen-volume series enriched with her own drawings and it received the Tir na n-Óg prize. Rala Rwdins was the first title in the series and was first published y Y Lolfa in 1983. Later on, television and theatre made successful adaptations using scripts written by Tomos. The series has been translated into Irish and Breton.
In 1985 Tomos won a prize from the Academi Gymreig for her novel Yma o Hyd, about prison life, a life she herself experienced when she was imprisoned at Risley Prison for her actions whilst campaigning for the Welsh language. Tomos was imprisoned for climbing the Crystal Palace TV transmitter in an attempt to highlight concern about the lack of television broadcasting in the Welsh language. Yma O Hyd can be translated as ‘Still here’ and it takes the form of an illegal diary written on a piece of toilet paper by a female prisoner called Blodeuwedd. The novel title was derived from the theme song of the 1980s Welsh cultural movement written by Dafydd Iwan as a rebellious response to the lost elections for a Welsh assembly in 1979. Tomos has twice won the Prose Medal at the Welsh National Eisteddfod, and has also won the Tir na n-Óg Award twice.
Si Hei Lwli was her third novel published in 1991. It also contains autobiographical elements and is based on Tomos’s personal experiences. Its title comes from a popular Welsh lullaby. The plot covers a car journey by the main character, Eleni (meaning ‘this year’) who is in her twenties, and her aunt Bigw who is in her nineties. The book won the Prose Medal at the National Eistedfodd in 1991.
Titrwm, published in 1994, is considered her best book in terms of artistic devices and use of language. The novel takes the form of a prose song and by means of soliloquy presents the story of a deaf and mentally impaired woman called Awen (meaning ‘inspiration’). In spite of her being physically and mentally disadvantaged, she manages to learn to read and is highly interested in books. The only person she can successfully communicate with is her son Titrwm. Her communication problems symbolise the political situation of Wales which was marginalised and, just as Awen, symbolically raped by an Englishman (who was subsequently killed by her brother). The beginning of the book suggests a personal story of love and identity; however, at the end of the book its political character becomes clearly visible. The title Titrwm is a Welsh song and it suggests the sound a stone thrown by a lover at his girl’s window makes as it falls. Although the novel represents Tomos’s writing at its best, it was not a successful work.
In 2004 Tomos wrote a book Wele'n Gwawrio. Its title is again the title of a song, this time a Christmas carol, and it can be translated as ‘Behold it dawns’. The book presents the dawn of the third millennium. The main character filled with political disappointment and looking for comfort falls back on religious contemplation. The book won the Prose Medal during the Eistedfodd in 1997.
She also published a historical novel called Rhagom in 2004, in which she discusses the atrocities of the First and the Second World Wars.
On 24 September 2009, a ceramic sculpture of Tomos was unveiled at Parc Glynllifon, near Caernarfon, it is the third of a series of six sculptures by Welsh artist Katie Scarlett Howard, as part of the Budding Artists' "Woman of Substance" project.
In her works, Tomos frequently makes use of autobiographical elements, philosophical discussions, satire and humour. She is known for referring to Welsh cultural heritage, such as Welsh myths, heroes and heroines, songs, poetry etc., all of which she tries to set in a broader global context. In her novels she employs a personal writing style which is especially visible in her descriptions of ordinary life situations shown from a particular, often satirical or humorous, perspective.
One of the most characteristic elements of Tomos’s writing style is the way she uses proper names in her works. First of all, they are used to emphasise the importance of the Welsh language. Secondly, they underline aspects of the plot: for instance, the name Eleni (meaning ‘this year’) from Si Hei Lwli, points to the age difference between the two travelling characters (Eleni is in her twenties while her aunt Bigw is in her nineties).
In her writing Tomos applies elements of pidginisation and local dialect which give the reader a sense of Welsh linguistic and cultural authenticity. These do not however create ambiguities that might be misunderstood by the English speaker. Nor should they be treated as a sign of a post-colonial writing and an attempt to mark distance from the majority norms. Rather they appear to point to a constant linguistic conflict between English and Welsh.
The themes discussed by Tomos portray a world troubled by the lack of equality, in particular the lack of an equal chance for every person to develop to their potential. She advocates change with respect to human rights, and in this way goes beyond the Welsh context and incorporates global perspectives in her writing.
As her novels have been written mainly for the National Eistedfodd, which gives the authors about a year and a half to write a book on a given topic, they are relatively short; this has not, howedver, limited the quality of her works and most of them have received widespread critical acclaim.
Other genres in which she has written include:
- Travel literature
- Television scripts
- Drama (Cyffes from 1994)
- Drama criticism
- Prose criticism
- Autobiography (Cnonyn Aflonydd from 2001)
- Newspaper columns
- Journal writing (especially political and literary)
Angharad Tomos applies various modernist narrative techniques in her writing:
- Internal monologues
- Stream of consciousness
- Cinematic flashbacks
- Frame constructions
- Philosophical digressions
- Dialectal speech
- Experiments with form
- Deliberate use of personal names
- The use of images
- Mythological references
- Yma o Hyd, December 1985 (Y Lolfa)
- Si Hei Lwli, January 1991 (Y Lolfa)
- Hen Fyd Hurt, January 1992 (Y Lolfa)
- Titrwm, January 1994 (Y Lolfa)
- Wele'n Gwawrio, August 2004 (Y Lolfa)
- Rhagom, October 2004 (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
- Wrth fy Nagrau i, October 2007 (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch)
- Cyfres y Cewri: 23. Cnonyn Aflonydd, July 2001 (Gwasg Gwynedd)
- Hiraeth am Yfory: Hanes David Thomas a Mudiad Llafur Gogledd Cymru, July 2002 (Gwasg Gomer)
- Y Byd a'r Betws, December 2003 (Y Lolfa)
- Rwdlan series, 1983– (Y Lolfa)
- Stwnsh Rwdlan - Llyfr Coginio i Blant Bach, November 1997 (Y Lolfa)
- Parti Cwmwl - Llyfr Coginio i Blant Bach, September 1998 (Y Lolfa)
- Cyfres Darllen Mewn Dim series, October 2006 (Y Lolfa)
- Guto series, 1991 (Cwmni Recordiau Sain)
- Llyfrau Fi Hefyd series, 1999 (Cyhoeddiadau'r Gair)
Honours and awards
- 1982 - Crown, Eisteddfod yr Urdd for Hen Fyd Hurt
- 1986 - Tir na n-Og Award for Y Llipryn Llwyd (Cyfres Rwdlan)
- 1991 - Prose Medal, Welsh National Eisteddfod for Si Hei Lwli
- 1997 - Prose Medal, Welsh National Eisteddfod for Wele'n Gwawrio
- 1994 - Tir na n-Og Award for Sothach a Sglyfath (Cyfres Cled)
- 2009 - Mary Vaughan Jones Award
- "Holi Angharad Tomos, mam Rala Rwdins" (in Welsh). BBC: Llais Llên. 2001-03-29.
- "Angharad Tomos and Gwen Griffith discuss their novels". Bangor University. 2007.
- "Angharad Tomos" (in Welsh). Cymdeithas yr Iaith. 2004-05-19.
- Hywel Trewyn (2009-09-25). "Statue of Angharad Tomos unveiled at Parc Glynllifon". Daily Post.
- "Award for Children's Author - the Mary Vaughan Jones Award 2009". Welsh Books Council. 2009-11-24.
- "Blogiau: Angharad Tomos" (in Welsh). Daily Post.